Challenge videos are all the rage on YouTube, from the “Cinnamon Challenge” (where one tries to eat a tablespoon of cinnamon without any liquid) to the “Chubby Bunny Challenge” (where a person tries to stuff as many marshmallows into their mouth and say, “Chubby Bunny”) to the “Ghost Pepper Challenge” (where a person eats a ghost pepper, one of the spiciest peppers on Earth). Searches on YouTube will find a plethora of videos of these and similar challenges, with different YouTubers competing to create the most audacious or entertaining video.
Recently students in the Karabots Junior Fellows learned about the potential health risks of these challenges from a pair of experts. Robb Bassett, DO, FAAEM, FCPP and Steven Walsh, MD, who, in addition to serving as Fellows of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, are both experts when it comes to medical emergencies. Dr. Bassett is the interim Medical Director of the Poison Control Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia while Dr. Walsh is the attending physician in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Einstein Medical Center. The pair took the students through several popular YouTube challenges, explaining their possible health risks. For example, the Cinnamon Challenge, according to a 2013 report in the medical journal Pediatrics, can cause aspiration, pulmonary inflammation or even permanent respiratory damage; the effects can be exacerbated in people with asthma.
They used this as a way to segue into a talk about the risks of counterfeit recreational or prescription drugs. Did you know that, when formed into a pill, rat poison can be made to resemble prescription painkillers like Oxycontin? Bassett and Walsh explained the hazards of counterfeit drugs, while the students asked them a variety of questions related to their fields, YouTube challenges, and the ethics of treating different kinds of patients in emergency situations. Overall it was an engaging talk where many of the students shared their opinions and gained new knowledge.